Town starts preparing for Asian beetle invasion
By Stephanie Choate
With the emerald ash borer presumably closing in on Vermont’s ash trees, the town is planning to begin preparations.
The invasive Asian beetle has been spotted in all the states surrounding Vermont, as well as Quebec. Once beetles infest a tree, they usually kill it in two to five years—leaving towns with unsightly and potentially hazardous dead trees.
“The things are surrounding us,” Tree Warden Bruce Hoar said. “We’d be kidding ourselves to think they’re not going to be here. The biggest thing we’re trying to do is be proactive.”
The town plans to begin gradually removing ash trees, starting with 47 on Harvest Lane between Marshall Avenue and Williston Road, as well as a few at the entrance to Wildflower Circle.
A public hearing for the removal is set for Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall.
Williston stopped planting ash trees in 2008, but 43 percent of it’s publically owned trees are ash. Approximately half of Williston street trees are ash, according to Hoar. In some neighborhoods, more than 90 percent are ash. On Wildflower Circle, the figure is 99 percent.
This winter will mark the first wave of action as the town prepares for the beetle’s arrival.
“Any place we’re taking trees out we will be putting new trees in,” Hoar said, though he added that the size of those new trees may vary.
He said the town may not remove all the ash trees in a given area, leaving some while making room to plant other species of trees.
“As those (ash trees) start to get attacked, we want to have some other trees in there so it won’t become a barren landscape,” he said.
Hoar said Williston Public Works Department staff will drop most of the ash trees on Harvest Lane over the winter. The trees will be replaced with a mix of species in the spring. Staff will likely leave approximately 16 trees that will be removed when the town builds a section of sidewalk on Harvest Lane.
Staff will also remove two to four ash trees from the entrance of Wildflower Circle and plant new trees. Hoar said Wildflower Circle is high on the town’s priority list, since there are so many ash trees. Taking down and planting a few trees at the entrance to the road will give residents a chance to see how the project will be carried out.
Emerald ash borers will not only devastate Williston’s ash trees, they could take a serious bite out of its budget.
Last fall, Conservation Commission member Gary Hawley told the Williston Selectboard that it could cost $10,000 each year for a decade to cut down Williston’s ash trees, and considerably more to replace them.
The town developed an Emerald Ash Borer Preparedness Plan, which recommends removing the town’s ash trees at a rate of 10 percent per year—nearly 50 trees.
The town allotted $5,000 in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the removal and replacement of ash trees. Hoar said the town also received a $5,000 grant.
“I’m hoping it will be enough,” he said.